Helpful, sometimes moving insights into a situation many will face.

ON VANISHING

MORTALITY, DEMENTIA, AND WHAT IT MEANS TO DISAPPEAR

A compassionate collection of essays examining dementia from an unusually hopeful point of view.

As a Christian minister and chaplain, first-time author Harper has spent considerable time working in assisted living and memory loss facilities with those experiencing varying degrees of dementia. Initially reluctant, like many of us, to deal with older people experiencing the disease, she gradually began to understand those she worked with as complicated people and to think about the many ways in which our misunderstanding of dementia leads us to stop paying attention to those affected by it—to see them as “vanishing” before they actually die. In fact, argues the author, they are vividly alive and sensitive to the presence of others and often capable of increased “compassion, honesty, humility.” In these essays, some of which were published in various journals, Harper explores with an open mind and empathetic imagination the question of why “we—those whom the dementia activist Morris Friedell termed the 'temporarily able-brained’—need them to vanish. Why are we so eager to view them as disappearing or disappeared?” She explores how our often unconscious biases lead us to assume that people are “gone” when they are actually right in front of us, longing for connection. She ponders the possible link between Shakespeare's King Lear and dementia, considers Ralph Waldo Emerson's relatively peaceful encounter with the state, and reflects on her own experience of sleepwalking and the ways it helps her understand dementia. “While I do not presume I can or should know in full the experiences of another,” she writes, “I wondered if sleepwalking might be one point of correspondence.” Harper moves smoothly between abstract reflections and concrete experiences, reflecting often on the effects of dementia on her grandfather and on her relationship with him, her fears that a genetic link to the disease may have been passed down to her, and her encounters with many individuals, all described in strikingly specific terms, surviving dementia in their own ways.

Helpful, sometimes moving insights into a situation many will face.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948226-28-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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